Rewards

After multiple airline trips, hotel stays, and rental cars this year– all booked through Expedia– I wanted to check my status in their rewards program.

WOW! After spending nearly $5,000 on travel, I have almost two dollars to redeem for my next airline ticket or whatever. First class, here I come.

Eh

Me: Hey Kyra, I’m pretty awesome, right?
Kyra (after a pause): Eh.

Hawai’ian miscellany

As the final installment in my Hawai’i saga, I have a random collection of photos from the trip.

During our layover at LAX, we had to get some dinner. There were three choices for restaurants, and Shake Shack seemed like the best option. As it turned out, it was the saddest burger I’ve seen in a long time.

Here are Alex and Kyra on the hike to Queen’s Bath:

While we were looking down at Wailua Canyon, we saw a guy pull up in an old beat-up Prius. The entire back half of the car was filled with coconuts. It looked totally sketchy.

Notice the rooster. They’ve pretty much taken over the island, and you see them everywhere. Sidewalks, along the road, parking lots, and anywhere there’s a flat surface, there are roosters and hens prancing around clucking. Kyra wasn’t at all pleased when she was awakened (every day) by the cock-a-doodle-doo of roosters at 5am.

Anyway, back to the coconuts. We talked to the guy, who apparently climbs the trees each morning and cuts down big bunches of coconuts. He pulled out a machete and proceeded to deliver a series of well-placed whacks to one of them. La and I both enjoyed a drink of fresh coconut milk.

I’m not normally a fan of coconuts, but there’s something about drinking it right out of a freshly-harvested one. Good stuff.

One afternoon we didn’t have any firm plans, so we headed down to a bike shop and rented cruiser bikes. They were pretty sweet.

There’s a nice bike trail along the eastern coast of Kaua’i, so we went about five miles up the shore. Not surprisingly, we saw some amazing beaches (several of which we’d visited earlier).

Oh, that blue. I love it.

We also partook of the traditional Hawai’ian shave ice (not shaved ice):

Sweet glory, that stuff is amazing. Laralee complained that it was “too sweet” (whatever that means). The kids and I absolutely loved them.

True shave ice is completely unlike a snow cone, and this particular roadside stand knew how to pump just enough liquid sugar to completely saturate the ice. Perfect!

In addition to the prolific chickens, I noticed a ton of wild cats. They’d just sit around outside stores, at roadside stands, or wherever. I’m not sure if they dined on chicken much, but there sure were a lot of them. Here’s one surveying his (her?) domain at a roadside park.

Laralee and I had opportunities to take nice walks along the beach. I figure that’s part of a healthy marriage: take your wife to Hawai’i and go to the beach.

The road along the southern coast of Maui has some really cool black-rock beaches, where the rocks are roughly the size of bowling balls.

When the waves come in, the rocks roll around and make a loud rumbling sound. It’s very different from the quieter rattling of finer sand in places like Waianapanapa.

In the photo above, part of the road is visible along the edge of the cliff. Much of the southern highway is a one-lane road that hugs the cliffs along the shore, with a sheer drop to the ocean (at times, hundreds of feet straight down). It’s a bit of a white-knuckle drive, but absolutely gorgeous.

Speaking of gorgeous, here’s Laralee with her wind blowing gently in the sea breeze.

At one point I noticed some waves hitting the rocks particularly hard, so I hiked over to take a look.

I got a bit too close.

On our last day in Kaua’i, I convinced Laralee and Alex to join me on the Kuamo’o Trail to the top of some cliffs overlooking the Wailua Valley. The trail was pretty crazy, snaking amongst towering grass.

We didn’t make it to the top, because we had to turn around so we could check out of our house on time. But we were rewarded with a nice view of Wailua and Kapa’a.

What an incredible trip. I’m thrilled we were able to go, and to take our kids. With Alex getting married next week and Zaque heading out on a mission next month, this will be the last time just the five of us can be together. Hawai’i is truly a paradise, and I can’t wait to return.

Koloa

What does one do in Koloa? Ziplining, of course! The famous Koloa Zipline company operates there, and they have eight separate lines with the final one stretching just shy of half a mile. We’d heard it was a ton of fun, so we signed up.

Our guides took some photos of us before our first run.

And off we go!

We had a great time. Near the end we took a group photo, with the Waita Reservoir in the background (and beyond that, the ocean).

Since parts of Jurassic World were filmed on the land owned by Koloa Zipline, apparently it’s a tradition to take a dinosaur photo too.

Holding a plastic toy dinosaur close to the camera isn’t quite the level of special effects in Jurassic World, but I guess you work with what you have…

Wailua

Not to be confused with Waimea (I kept mixing up the names), Wailua is a river and valley in eastern Kaua’i. One morning we decided to rent some paddleboards and go upriver. The current is really slow, so it’s more or less like being on a lake.

At first, as we headed out from shore, we were all a little wobbly on the boards. They were surprisingly unstable, although I attribute some of that to the fact that they’re sort of cheap rentals.

After a while, all of us got our sea legs and were able to paddle with ease. Kyra shows off her technique:

Like everything in Kaua’i, green is abundant. The river winds between tree-covered hills in an idyllic setting.

At times it was nice to just relax on the board and let the current gently push us along.

Here’s a view of part of the river from above:

Although I would’ve preferred to kayak, the Wailua River is restricted and you pretty much have to go with a tour group. We much preferred doing our own thing on paddleboards. It was really cool, and a great way to spend a morning.

Beaches

We spent a lot of time at beaches during our two weeks in Hawai’i. All of us loved playing in the waves and just relaxing in the sand.

Inevitably, people were buried in the sand. Kyra insisted it was surprisingly comfortable, and it certainly kept her from getting sunburned.

Here’s Zaque as he attempts to “break out” by sheer strength:

A random shot of a wave slithering along the smooth sand:

We saw all kinds of little sand crabs. These guys were maybe an inch across, and they blended into the sand almost perfectly. You couldn’t really see them until they moved, and when they did, they were fast!

We did some snorkeling, but it wasn’t very popular with this crowd. I think we might’ve enjoyed it more if we’d been in places where there were substantially larger reefs.

Here’s Kyra diving for a closer look:

We saw a few sea turtles, which are always fun.

Riding the waves is always a hit. I was standing next to Laralee as one came in:

She went down. And so did I.

Zaque takes one in the back:

This time I caught a good hit to Laralee:

We tried boogie-boarding at a few of the beaches, but couldn’t quite master it. Alex seemed to do the best.

Laralee caught a big wave and tumbled hard. Afterward she looked a bit washed-up.

(She swore off boogie-boarding after that incident.)

Alex and Zaque both had fun rolling with the waves. They’d lay on the shore, just above the waterline, and wait for a big wave to come in and sweep them away. Here’s Alex getting rolled:

And Zaque’s swimsuit model pose. I promised him this will be in our family Christmas card.

Alex found a coconut floating on the waves:

These guys are formidable. He and Laralee spent a good five minutes smashing it on a rock and tearing at it to get it open.

Finally they were rewarded with some fresh coconut milk!

One of the places we went on Kaua’i was called Queen’s Bath. It came highly recommended, not only in our guidebook but also by several friends. It was, bar none, the muddiest trail I’ve ever hiked (even muddier than Haleakala, which we’d done a few days earlier). Zaque didn’t have shoes so he did the whole thing barefoot, including walking across the sharp lava rocks at the shore. When we finally arrived at Queen’s Bath, he expressed our opinion pretty succinctly:

Maybe on a “good day” it’s a cool area, but that day it was more like a tepid, stagnant pond. No thanks.

In the end, if you finish the day with sandy feet, it was probably a good day.

Waimea Canyon

Waimea Canyon is known as the “Grand Canyon of Hawai’i” and it’s easy to see why. It cuts a deep swath through southwest Kaua’i and is majestic. We drove up the canyon road, and I was telling Laralee to stop at nearly every pullout so I could climb up the embankment and look at the vista.

Kyra was unimpressed, and stayed in the car.

As we neared the top of the canyon, we literally drove up into a cloud. Much of the higher altitudes in Kaua’i seem to be enveloped in clouds pretty often, due to all the moisture in the air. At first it looked like nothing more than a light fog…

… but when we started hiking the Pu’u o Kila trail, the clouds thickened and soon we were unable to see the canyon at all.

Interestingly, the edge of the trail dropped off as a sheer cliff. Although we couldn’t see into the canyon itself, it was obvious we were standing at the top of a vertical wall at least several hundred feet high.

At times, the forest had kind of an eerie otherworldly quality about it:

But wait! Laralee saw a break in the clouds.

Sure enough, the air cleared a bit and we had a view along the canyon toward the Na Pali Coast:

It was fleeting– the clouds dissipated for only a few minutes, but what they revealed was spectacular.

Then they closed in again, and we were wreathed in fog once again. It was really interesting to hike in these conditions.

At times I thought maybe we’d get a good view, but even at the Pihea lookout at the “top” of the trail, it was almost entirely enveloped in clouds.

I’d hoped that during the hike we’d get a break, but alas, the cloud cover persisted. We hiked back down the trail and managed to catch one last glimpse toward the coast:

Although the clouds provided interesting scenery, I was disappointed not to see the entire view. Next time, we decided, we’d come in the morning rather than waiting until the afternoon when the clouds roll in.

Driving back down the road afforded a couple more amazing shots.

Like the Na Pali Coast, this is a place I definitely want to return to, and take some of the dozen or so more serious hikes. Amazing stuff.

Na Pali

After a week in Maui, we island-hopped over to Kaua’i. On our last trip to the state, we’d visited O’ahu and while that was cool, we wanted to see something new. On our first full day there, we hopped aboard a helicopter tour.

It lasted a little less than an hour, but it was probably one of the most amazing hours of my life. The scenery was without equal. We saw more waterfalls than I could believe, and I found myself breathing “wow” almost every time we swooped around a cliff into another valley.

The cliffs were steep and completely covered in green, with rivers and streams flowing through them.

So many waterfalls!

As we continued toward the western edge of Kaua’i, the cliffs became steeper.

The wide-angle lens on my camera couldn’t even capture the scene from top to bottom.

We cruised through canyons whose sheer walls were, in some cases, almost half a mile tall.

And then we arrived at the Na Pali Coast.

Words (and photos) don’t do it justice. The cliffs are towering and the water is a breathtaking shade of turquoise.

Check out the tiny boat for scale:

Along the shoreline are beaches and caves, many with waterfalls.

Indescribable.

Some of the waterfalls literally spring from the side of the cliffs, with no source above them. The water at the top of the mountain– one of the wettest spots on the planet– trickles down into the rock and can take decades to eventually work through to the rock face where it gushes out as a waterfall.

After seeing it, I decided then and there I want to hike or kayak along the coast. It’s a journey of several days, but the chance to stop at caves and camp on the beach would be an amazing experience. Laralee agreed to do it with me, so now I have a new item for my bucket list.

There’s nowhere quite like Na Pali.

Haleakala

Haleakala is the mountain in the center of Maui, a long-extinct volcano that towers over the island and has a profound effect on the climate. The area to the north and east is incredibly wet (one of the wettest places on earth) while south and west is much drier. It makes for a fascinating drive to essentially circle the mountain, taking the Road to Hana along the north shore, and then highway 360 on the south shore.

The mountain is part of a national park, and the southeast entrance is at Ohe’o Gulch. Despite the name, it has a majestic shoreline.

Alex hiked out a bit to get a closer look:

Kyra snapped a shot of me and Laralee:

And I couldn’t resist one of her looking out over the ocean.

A short hike unveils even more incredible shoreline.

Looking inland, you can see the so-called Seven Sacred Pools. There aren’t seven, and you can’t swim in them, so it’s a bit of a misnomer.

We headed up the trail, which was the muddiest trail I’ve ever hiked. This area of Maui gets an unbelievable amount of rainfall, and after a while we stopped even trying to keep our shoes and feet clean. We stopped for a quick photo at a massive banyan tree:

Eventually we arrived at the bamboo forest, which as always was awesome. There’s something about all those tall trees crammed together, waving gently in the breeze and making a strange knocking sound.

At the end of the trail is Waimoku Falls, cascading nearly five hundred feet down a sheer cliff face.

What a beautiful national park!

Hana

As we approached Hana, we stopped at Waianapanapa State Park (yeah, say that three times quickly!) to enjoy the black sand beach. The sand is made of volcanic rock that’s been relentlessly ground down by the waves, and it’s really cool to walk on it.

We walked through a lava tube to come out to a beach filled with rocks and black crabs. Oh, and waves.

The view from the beach is, not surprisingly, stunning.

Like most of Maui, everything is green… including the rock walls, which have been overgrown.

After some time at Waianapanapa, we went to our rental place in Hana. It was advertised as a “bungalow” and it definitely was.

There was no air conditioning, no cell service, no internet… just a little house nearly buried in tropical plants.

I found a pretty flower for my pretty wife.

The lanai was screened in, and included the dining table and a bed. Kyra wisely chose this place to sleep, and was probably in the coolest room in the house because of all the airflow through the open screens.

It was a charming place, although at $450 per night it was without question the most expensive place we’ve slept in our lives! There are very few places to stay in Hana, and no other big towns for fifty miles, so accommodations command a premium. Totally worth it.

Later we went down to a red sand beach, which was nestled in a protected cove area:

Looking more closely at the sand, it was probably half red (note the color of the rocks above) and half black lava rock. Pretty cool.

After a couple of days in Hana and the area, we headed south. On our way out of town we stopped by a nice area called the Venus Pools. Although it looks kind of pretty, the water was filled with a lot of flotsam that would’ve made swimming kind of questionable.

Hana is definitely a cool place, and I think its relative inaccessibility adds to the charm somehow.

Nahiku

Nahiku is a little out-of-the-way village that’s absolutely stunning. There are only a few houses, as well as a bus stop and a church, at the bottom of a long winding road down from the Hana Highway. After parking, there’s a walk along a paved road (closed to traffic) that brings you to a beach lookout. We stopped for a couple of photos.

After a brief walk along the rocky shoreline, we headed to our favorite place in the entire world: a little swimming hole buried in the forest.

When we were last here in 2017, the waterfall was a gentle trickle, but with the rain Maui had been getting, it was considerably bigger this time. There was even a second, much smaller, waterfall off to the side.

The entire area is so incredibly lush and green that it’s hard to describe, and even harder to capture in a photo.

We didn’t have swimsuits with us in 2017, so it was a shame we couldn’t actually swim in the pool. But this time we’d planned better, and it meant we could use the rope swing which is probably thirty feet above the water. Zaque and Alex look good:

I just jumped straight off the cliff, since the rope swing wasn’t really necessary. The water was cool and crisp, fresh from the jungle stream. We swam under the waterfall and probably spent two hours just enjoying this magical place.

Even the walk back to the car was amazing. The green of the forest, and the colors of the plants, are almost overwhelming.

Ahh, Nahiku, you still hold a special place in my heart.

Ke’anae Point

Along the Road to Hana there’s a little area called Ke’anae where the waves absolutely pound the north shore. There’s also a “world famous” banana bread stand there, so we stopped for a bite before walking to the rocks.

It had been raining, so everything was kind of dulled, but in a way it made the waves more impressive as they came crashing into the rocks.

Alex and Kyra waded out a bit and enjoyed the surf.

For some reason, the waves make especially spectacular splashes at one point, often surging twenty or thirty feet into the air.

For some reason, I love watching the waves.

Kyra waded out to another area, but couldn’t go too far because the incoming water was looking a little dangerous. Here’s a smallish wave hitting the outer rocks:

Along the “beach”, the black lava rocks are continually rolled by the waves, making them smooth. The sound they make as they cascade over each other is really fun.

Nakalele

The Nakalele Blowhole is a well-known spot on Maui’s north shore. We learned from our last experience on the craziest road of all time to take the western route, which was much easier. The waves were crashing as always, and the blowhole didn’t disappoint. Several times it shot well over a hundred feet into the air.

It’s actually kind of tricky to take a picture of it, because my camera has a hard time focusing on the ethereal water. But as with all digital photography, taking enough pictures eventually yields a keeper.

We hiked over to the far side so we could be closer (notice Laralee and the kids for scale):

I could watch the waves crash against the rocks all day.

Laralee stood a little too close to the shore and was surprised by a particularly big wave.

She and Kyra posed atop a tall rock overlooking the ocean.

After spending a while at the blowhole, we moved on to some nearby areas on the north shore. Zaque, Alex, and I hiked out to a promontory.

One thing I love about Maui is the color of the water. Yes, it’s really this blue when the sunlight hits it just right. (I didn’t adjust the colors or saturation in this photo at all.)

The Road to Hana

Maui is my favorite place in the world. When we were contemplating a trip to Hawai’i, Laralee and I agreed we had to go to Maui again. And of course the most magical part of the island is the Road to Hana, which is fifty miles of narrow roads, crazy winding turns, and the most amazing scenery anywhere.

Our first stop was the bamboo forest partway up the road. We stopped at the right mile marker and climbed out of the car. The kids were confused: “Are you sure this is the right place?” There’s no trailhead, in fact nothing at all to indicate there’s something to see. But when you look at the thick bamboo trees alongside the road, you’ll see a narrow dark hole that goes steeply down from the pavement. We stepped inside.

The trees are incredibly thick, making the forest dark.

The trail is steep, muddy, and not very well-defined. But we made our way down to a stream. The last time we’d visited, we could rock-hop across the stream to get to a series of waterfalls. However, it had been raining earlier in the day, so there was significantly more water. The stream was wide and deep, and we had to wade:

Fortunately we’d planned ahead and were all wearing swimsuits. (As it happened, we spent more than half our time in Hawai’i wearing swimsuits all day.) We crossed the stream and Alex found a place to achieve inner peace before we continued.

We found the first waterfall deep in the jungle, admired it for a bit, and then moved on to our real target, a second waterfall emptying into a big pool.

Of course we took advantage of a rope swing near the falls.

The kids posed by a different waterfall:

This is definitely one of my favorite hikes anywhere. The kids were thrilled, and asked if we’d be hiking through any more bamboo on our trip.

Yep.

12 days in paradise

For the second time, Laralee and I went to the Hawai’ian Islands. And this time we brought our kids.

Our internet service was pretty spotty during the course of our trip, so rather than a day-by-day travelogue, I’m going to step through each of the places we visited. Get ready for a dozen or so posts…

Home sweet (almost) home

Last week we headed up to Montana to check out our new house. We’re staying in Colorado for the rest of the summer, but we figured we should at least see our new place before moving up there in September.

Tara and her kids showed up a little after we did, and a few days later Thom, Katie, and Sefton stopped in as well. It was fun to have a big group there; the house is really good for hosting groups. Together we all explored the house and tried to figure out how things worked (so many light switches!). Katie even found a secret closet-within-a-closet. The utility room has a bewildering array of switches, control panels, and valves. It was definitely an adventure.

The house looks amazing when you first arrive:

Across the courtyard is the guest house, also known as The Party Room:

And yes, we have a turret. Everyone needs a turret.

Zaque actually slept in the attic, which is at the top of the turret above the spiral staircase. The carpet in there is deep purple (no kidding).

The cherry orchard was really cool. It’s harvest time, so Laralee and I picked a bunch of them for sharing. They were delicious.

As we wandered around figuring things out and thinking about where our furniture would go and sort of dreading the impending process of moving, I wondered if all this is crazy. We’re moving a thousand miles, away from a place and friends we know and love, to an area we know very little about, and trading our city life for a much more rural one. Is this a mid-life crisis? Maybe. But as I sat on the front porch and watched the sunset over the lake, I was reminded why we’re doing this.

It’s breathtakingly beautiful. Sure, it’ll be a different lifestyle, but we’ll figure it out and make friends and, most importantly, we’ll do it together.

Apple reborn

While we were visiting Missouri, Mom pulled out the old Apple IIe from my childhood. I think we bought that in the early 1980’s, and after plugging in a few parts, it actually booted up!

Thom and I fiddled with some of the disks (yes, the original 5 1/4″ floppies) and managed to bring up a few classic games like Black Magic (Thom’s favorite). Here he is playing Dig Dug:

One of my favorite games was Lode Runner:

Unfortunately we couldn’t get the game to start– we could only run the demo mode. It was strange, but I suppose after 35 years or so, it was more surprising that it even partially worked.

It’s a credit to Apple (and to Mom!) that after all these years, the computer still worked. Check out the sweet core memory chips, at 8kB apiece for a total of 64kB:

But– lucky us– we had an expansion card called the “80-column card” which doubled the ram to 128kB and allowed the system to display 80 columns of text instead of the default 40. That was really important when doing word processing, and of course for games.

I think Mom is going to give away the computer, or maybe sell it on eBay one of these days (yes, there’s still a market for 1980-era Apple IIe’s out there). It was fun to be reminded of all those hours spent on the computer when I was a teenager. That old Apple put me on the path to a successful software career a decade later!

Ahh, Colorado sunsets

Driving home from Boulder last night, I was treated to a beautiful sunset over the mountains.

Odd super powers

At dinner the other night, we were talking about super powers that would be kind of pointless to have. Zaque and Alex came up with a bunch that were hilarious. Some of the better examples:

  • The ability to fly, but only while naked
  • The ability to move things with your mind, but only if they’re within arm’s reach
  • The ability to make your socks wet
  • The ability to sneeze your favorite fountain drink
  • The ability to walk through walls, but only the drywall (not the studs)
  • The ability to be invisible, but only while screaming at the top of your lungs
  • The ability to move moles around your skin (not get rid of them, just move them)
  • The ability to de-carbonate soda
  • The ability to make bread soggy

Yeah, these are the sorts of things my boys do. I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, as they say.